There has been an explosion in awards programs over the last decade and the good news for B2B marketers is that they can present a valuable opportunity. Whether you are thinking of entering, looking at sponsorship opportunities or even considering hosting your own, the potential return on investment could be significant.
Within most industries, there are now loads to choose from, with more being added all the time.
In the case of media outlets, such as trade magazines, traditional advertising can be a challenging market nowadays. Businesses are increasingly choosing to spend their marketing budgets in different places, including digital marketing campaigns, social media ads and Pay-Per-Click campaigns. This has called for some innovative thinking.
Hosting awards is one way that media outlets can generate revenue (such as through sponsorship deals, advertising and ticket sales), while also creating a stream of content and increasing potential readership – all of which are vital to ensure their ongoing survival.
Running a successful awards program can be a real money spinner for those who host them, so it’s easy to see why their popularity is on the rise.
So, how can you leverage such awards when you’re a B2B business?
Here, we’re going to run through the different options and what you need to think about if you’re to get the most out of adding awards to your marketing calendar.
1. Entering Awards
Most businesses will have considered entering an award at one time or another. This could be anything from a specialist industry award, to local or regional ones that focus more on business practices and success.
There are different routes available and you may opt to do just one, or to pursue a combination. Here are some examples:
- Industry awards – focusing on an aspect of the business or a specific project
- General business awards – focusing on the business and its success, or an individual team member
- Specialist vocation-based awards – focusing on an individual or team (for example, you may enter your inhouse accounts team into an accounting industry trade press award)
One awards model to look out for…
It is worth mentioning here that the quality of different awards will vary widely and there is one model that you need to aware of.
If you are approached by an awards organization that says you have won an award, but you haven’t entered or done anything of real note to warrant it, then alarm bells should be ringing. If you’ve never even heard of the awards, then always be cautious.
Some award models will have little real value for your business. You may see multiple awards being issued every month, which have no real judging process or criteria behind them. While it’s great to be named ‘XYZ of the year’, it means nothing if there are hundreds of others who can say the same and the awards themselves have little or no reputation to speak of.
These types of award programs will also often have hidden costs further down the line. You may need to pay to have an interview conducted and to be featured in any associated magazines, or websites. Basically, you are paying for advertising, just in a different way.
For some companies, this will still be viewed as valuable. For example, for a start-up who is desperate to have something to shout about. But always, always, always, ensure you ask for the full details and what all the associated costs are at every stage of the process, before you set the ball rolling. That way, you can accurately weight up the pros and cons, in the knowledge of how much you may end up having to spend overall.
ROI remains the name of the game.
Top tips on choosing which awards to enter
So, how should you go about choosing which awards to enter?
Before you hit Google, it’s best to outline some clear criteria, against which you will judge any potential awards program. This criteria will be most beneficial if seen and agreed internally, by the various teams likely to be involved.
While you may choose to just go for it regardless, it is always wise to give proper consideration to any decision you make. Even the simplest award entry will take time, if you are to do it well.
By preparing a list of criteria and questions in advance, you will make sure you have asked everything you need to and fully thought through the decision.
Example criteria may include:
- Time taken to enter – how long and complicated is the entry form, what information will you need to submit, how hard will it be to collate and how long will it take to fill in
- Deadline – can you meet the deadline, is there enough time for any internal/external approvals that may be needed (for example, if you’re entering a project jointly with a supply partner or customer)
- Cost – some awards cost money to enter, do you have the budget, is the potential return worth it
- Can you win – some awards are only worth it if you have a high chance of winning, look at past winners and consider whether your entry would be on a par
- Associations – is there anyone associated with the awards that gives them a particular precedence, such as a key government department
- Who usually enters – who has entered and won previously, what other businesses will you potentially be positioning yourself alongside by entering, who may you meet at the awards dinner (if there is one)
- Awards status – are they well known, will winning enhance your reputation
- Publicity – what is the potential publicity you would gain, what audience will you be seen by
How might you benefit from entering?
When you’ve chosen some awards to enter, then aside from the publicity the awards themselves may give you, there are other ways you can look to leverage them for your own benefit.
- Brand awareness: If you’re shortlisted, and of course if you then go on to win, put together and issue press releases to share your positive news and increase brand awareness
- Form connections: Try and connect with others associated with the awards, such as by devising a campaign aiming at other shortlisted companies (often these will be listed on the award’s website)
- Network: In the same vein, maximize your networking opportunities by targeting other businesses before the awards ceremony, to say it would be good to meet (if they aren’t attending on the night, then you have a good conversation starter to try and arrange a meeting at another time)
- Social media: Get social and start using and interacting using the award’s hashtag, to try and start relationships and increase your visibility
- LinkedIn: Make sure you also connect with any new contacts on LinkedIn, to bring the offline and online together
- Internal comms: Plus, don’t forget about your internal and stakeholder communications – prepare some materials and promote them on your website and email footers too if appropriate
2. Sponsoring awards or categories
A second option to consider is sponsorship. Most, if not all, awards look for sponsors. There are likely to be different packages available, coming at different levels of cost. For example, there is likely to be a lead sponsor for the whole thing, as well as category sponsors associated with individual awards.
Again, it is the potential ROI that you need to weigh up. Ask yourself:
- How much will it cost?
- What does the sponsorship package include, does it represent real value, is there any room to negotiate?
- How else might you be able to capitalize on the opportunity – for example, could you have a display stand at the awards ceremony itself, put something in the goody bags, or add something to the prize package?
- Do the awards make sense, are they going to be a good ‘fit’ for your target customer base and other marketing plans?
- Who will you be associating yourself with?
- Who has entered the awards in previous years
- Who are the other sponsors
3. Launching your own awards
Of course, it’s not just media outlets and professional events firms who can benefit from hosting an awards program. If you can commit the time and resources to it, and you hit on a great idea that ties to your target audience, then you could also consider launching your own.
There are many examples of awards that have been established by an individual or small company and grown to become very popular.
For example, near our Lead Forensics office based in Portsmouth, UK, a local digital agency has created an awards program called The Wire Hive League Table. Started in 2012, it has grown to become a highly coveted award for agencies across the south of the UK. Getting listed in the Wire Hire table is now a big deal.
For Wire Hive, it continues to be a key marketing tool that enables them to spread their reach and raise awareness. As the company offers web hosting services and targets digital agencies, launching a digital agency league table has been somewhat of a master stroke for lead generation.
Making awards work
We hope we have given you food for thought and ideas for how best to leverage awards as a marketing tool.
However you choose to make use of them, the key to success with any awards is relevance and assessing the potential return on investment you will gain. That should include all the time and effort it takes to do, as well as any monetary cost associated with them.
Awards can be a fantastic way to promote businesses of all sizes, and to show off expertise and specialisms. Hit on a good one that’s a great fit and which gets you in front of the right people and you could benefit significantly.